Clover-College Park, Alexandria, VA
Most people know Alexandria as the hometown of our first and most famous president, George Washington. But not far from George Washington’s colonial-era Old Town is a mid-century suburban Alexandria neighborhood that was home to our 38th president — Gerald Ford.
The Ford family lived in the Clover-College Park neighborhood of Alexandria for some twenty years, including during his service as vice president and for ten days after his swearing-in as president in the summer of 1974, according to resident Patricia Dane Rogers.
“There are many interesting people who have lived in the Clover-College Park neighborhood. Jerry Ford is unique because most neighborhoods can’t say that a president lived in the neighborhood for twenty years. But he did and he was a very active part of the community. He went to Immanuel's Church… and his children early on went to MacArthur School,” says Rogers.
But things have changed since President Ford’s time in the neighborhood. Gradually, there’s been a turnover of residents. Younger couples moved in and started new families.
“When we moved here 15 years ago, it definitely skewed older. I would say many, many people in their 50’s and 60’s and even older. Now I think most are in their 30’s and 40’s and have many young children. Many families have children under the age of 14,” says Rogers.
The newer, younger families who have moved to Clover-College Park in recent years were likely drawn by the location—close to Old Town Alexandria and Washington, D.C. But Rogers says that the unique, diverse architecture of the area also offered many young families the chance to buy modest-sized homes and expand them over the years.
“The architecture in Clover-College Park is quite diverse. College Park was begun in the 30’s with small, stone houses which have been added to, and then in the 50’s many brick split levels were added,” says Rogers. “Clover is a little more diverse, I would say. Rozier Beech, who was the developer, built four-square colonials, he built ramblers, he built split levels... many of them have been changed. I think it’s safe to say no two houses look the same, and that’s part of the charm.”
The best view of George Washington’s Mt. Vernon home may be from the back porch of Stevenson McIlvaine’s Accokeek, Md. farm house. But that view was almost lost a half century ago, according to McIlvaine.
“Mt. Vernon is just across the river, just across the Potomac,” he says. “Back in the 60’s when there was the threat of a cement plant or a sewage plant or something like that, the Park Service — under pressure from the Mt. Vernon Ladies Association — bought up the shoreline and put easements on all the land behind the shoreline so that trees could not be cut down.”
Today Accokeek peninsula is a rural, wooded pocket in southern Prince Georges County. There are houses, but you would never know it driving along its access road or looking across the river from Mt. Vernon. Homes and open land are hidden by a canopy of greenery.
But under that canopy is at least one farm, run by McIlvaine and his wife.
“My favorite part of living in Accokeek is living this close to Washington and living in a rural lifestyle. We sell eggs—we have about 60 chickens—we sell grass-fed beef, we sell heritage pork and in-season heirloom tomatoes, lettuce, flowers, that sort of thing,” he says.
McIlvaine says Accokeek is rural, beautiful and very close—only 20 miles from the Washington Monument, but he doesn’t necessarily like to tout these attributes. He’d prefer to keep this community hidden beneath the trees.
“I’m not sure I want to say Accokeek is a great place to live, because we don’t want rapid growth. We are hopeful that Accokeek will remain quiet and peaceful,” he says.
Music: "No, Girl" by John Davis from Title Tracks / "Queen of Hearts" by Juice Newton from Greatest Hits